Painting by Jackson Pollock
Steve Pickton made a name for himself primarily through his Stasis project (and under innumerable other monikers), fervently expanding on the complex UK techno sound of the early to mid 90s. So it may come as a surprise to see him fronting deep beatdown house as Soul 223. But he tested these waters ever so briefly several years ago with a 12″ on Soul Jazz and a remix of Nebraska’s “Vicarious Disco.” The six years it took Pickton to craft a second release has resulted in a strengthening of his vision. The second release up on Delsin’s new house directed series, Almost Like It Used To Be is a fitting match, tying both the label and Pickton’s similar techno legacies to auspicious future paths.
The title track moves at a slowed tempo, featuring lush pad sequences, rattling hi-hats, and funky bass wobble through much of the track, interrupted only for a synth breakdown that reaches for the stars. “Arties Mood” works as a short beat sketch, cramming bleeps and organ shards betwixt hand drums and crafty edit work. On the flip, “Heartstrings,” starts out with a resonating kick, bongos, and jazzy double bass progression before bestowing elegant strings, soul vocal samples and squelchy analog lines on listeners. It hits just the right balance of deep house and techno melancholy. Pickton ends with the gloriously funky “Essex,” whose curled bass stabs and Rhodes melody fit comfortably next to faded claps and whistling percussion. And just before ending it fades and transforms into a 30-second jazzy hip-hop beat that is itself pretty damn solid. Six years between releases? It was worth the wait.